Thinking Small

The United States and the Lure of Community Development

A historical look at the history of community development, locating its roots in dubious US-led efforts in India, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Immerwahr uncovers that community development efforts were frequently waylaid by unforeseen complications or else appropriated for other purposes. Notably, he identifies many cases in which grassroots organizational structures were used to extend centralized control; as well as examples where community efforts cemented existing power structures along class and gender lines, rather than subverting them. But while highly critical, the book doesn’t suggest that community development is a lost cause, only that those undertaking efforts today be aware of its history—and of its limits.